directors are usually control freaks. It just goes with the territory. That’s
great for their auteurist visions, but not so hot for personal relationships.
Margherita’s mother still loves her anyway, even in periods of ill health and
maybe not quite 100% sound mind. The headstrong daughter should probably start
preparing for the inevitable, but she has a didactic art film to finish first
in Nanni Moretti’s Mia Madre (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
was the closest thing Margherita had to a muse, but that did not stop her from dumping
him midway through their latest shoot. Barry Huggins, a famous American
character actor supposedly fluent in Italian will soon be joining the
production, but he most definitely will not be taking Vittorio’s place.
Frankly, she is far too preoccupied with her mother Ada’s health, but so far
she has left most of the hard work to her older brother Giovanni. She is also
trying to be a reasonably responsible mother to her Latin-flunking,
Vespa-yearning daughter Livia, but it does not come natural to her.
developments on the set push Margherita to the verge of a nervous breakdown.
The high maintenance Huggins might understand Italian, but his fluency is iffy
and his memorization of lines is even more suspect. Plus, just about every
technical problem imaginable threatens to rob the world of another overwrought
melodrama about unionized strikers.
Mia Madre’s acute attention to
personal crises definitely makes it feel like a Nanni Moretti film, but it is hard
not to hear Georges Delerue’s soaring themes from Truffaut’s Day for Night welling up in the back of
your head. Considering the ways the two films parallel each other (socially
awkward, semi-autobiographical filmmakers whose sanity and latest productions
are nearly undermined by untimely tragedy), it is hard to imagine Moretti wasn’t
engaging with the Oscar winner on some level.
that as it may, Mia Madre is a fine work
with an unusually high quotient of emotional truth. Margherita Buy takes
another slyly subtle star turn as Margherita the namesake director, proving she
is one of the best in the business. John Turturro is quite a good sport hamming
it up as Huggins (who else could he be lampooning, but himself?), yet when we
least expect it, he and Moretti will irreversibly humanize the Yankee prima
donna. Moretti the helmer-thesp (who has not infrequently been cast in other
people’s movies) oozes dignity as the wise, soul-weary Giovanni. He just can’t
help being charismatic on-screen. However, Giulia Lazzarini is doing standard
TV movie-central casting stuff as the spirited but slowly fading Ada.
Madre is a very nice film, but Day for Night is a masterwork. That is
an unfair comparison, but Moretti seems to invite it. Nevertheless, Buy follows
up her wonderfully understated turn in the grossly underappreciated A Five Star Life with another notably
smart and mature performance. Recommended for patrons of Italian cinema and
fans of Turturro, Mia Madre opens
this Friday (8/26) in New York, at the Lincoln Plaza uptown and the Angelika
Film Center downtown.
Labels: Italian Cinema, John Turturro, Margherita Buy, Nanni Moretti